And as the world inched closer to possible war in North Korea and as millions of Puerto Ricans suffered the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria — a small speck of land in the Middle East was about to send shockwaves through the international system. Today — September 25, 2017 — the Kurds of Iraq will likely overwhelmingly vote for their independence in the referendum being held in Iraqi Kurdistan. This independence is well deserved. The Kurdish homeland in the Middle East dates back centuries — but the Kurds themselves find themselves split asunder & without a nation. As the world’s largest ethnic group without a nation to call its own, the Kurds have faced decades of severe persecution in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, & Syria. Aided by a No-Fly Zone instituted by the United States following the First Gulf War, the Kurds in Iraq were able to establish a semi-autonomous territory in Northern Iraq and to create the current Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). The Kurds were strong allies in the Second Gulf War as they helped topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, leading to even greater autonomy for themselves. And Iraqi Kurdistan was the only area of relative peace during the terror-fueled raging Iraqi insurgency & sectarian civil war that followed. Following the invasion of Iraq by ISIS in 2014, the Kurds demonstrated themselves to be the most dependable fighting force in-country, halting the sweeping gains of ISIS and giving the Iraqi government – and indeed the world – the breathing room to regroup and fight back. Independence has long been the desired goal of Kurds in the region, and the Kurds positioned themselves well as they battled ISIS, took back large swaths of territory from the terrorist organization, and consolidated these gains. But the Iraqi government – based in Baghdad and dominated by Shiite parties – is still the ultimate arbiter of power in Iraq, stifling Kurdistan’s economy, fighting with it over oil, limiting its armaments, and generally squeezing Kurdish autonomy. After decades of being ruled by Baghdad, the Kurds of Iraq have had enough.